How I Lost $8000 Dollars?!!!

20170118_114923I lost $8000 dollars. It could have been prevented. I could have avoided it. I didn’t. It happened. And surprisingly, I don’t feel that bad about it. Am I losing sleep over it? No, I’m not. Am I banging my head against the wall? Not even. And its not because I think $8000 is a small amount. Both vehicles that I currently drive are worth less than that. I could have used that money to fund my children’s education, to buy a better car, a nice vacation, to invest, many other things. But now that money is gone….and you know what? I probably won’t miss it.

Now you may be saying to yourself….”What the heck is wrong with you? It’s $8000 freaking dollars guy!” My response. I shrug my shoulders and respond, “Oh, well. Life goes on.” Trust me, I have a valid reason. And I would be willing to bet that if you were in my shoes you would feel the same way. I talked to somebody who lost that much money in the same manner and guess what? They did it on purpose. I, at least attempted not to lose it even though my efforts in hindsight where “blinded efforts.” That other person lost about $7500 and they did it on purpose! If you think I am crazy for not feeling “that bad” about losing $8000, now imagine somebody losing $7500 on purpose. In fact, they planned on losing that money. They planned it! So don’t call me crazy now.

Now let me explain. I have a rental property (we can call it “Ignored”) that always leases out fast. In the first week of October the tenants moved out and my wife and I did the make-ready lightning fast. I did a glance over and started doing light touch-up on the place and my wife did some light cleaning on the kitchen only. We finished in one day. Placed it for lease right away and narrowly focused on the remodel of the other home I had just purchased (we can call it “Sponge”). Sponge consumed all my time due to the fact that it was an extensive remodel. My days were filled with my daily routine, the addition of trips to home improvement shops, placing light fixtures, trim, and other decorative features on Sponge. My work days would be ending at 9 pm every day.

October passed. Like a leaf, November blew away. December left like a souped up sleigh. And now we are in January and finally I began to wonder…Why the heck hasn’t Ignored been leased? Ignored has been leased out for about $2000-$2200 before and 4 months have passed with no takers. Four months without a tenant is a loss of $8000! I go back to Ignored, and this time do a thorough walk through and what do I see? Mold. Grimy mold is on the bathroom tiles and also notice that the bottom trim is filthy all over the house. Sponge had consumed so much of my life that I overlooked many obvious defects that would have deterred any potential renters. In all my years I have never lost that many months on a rental. Now I lost 4 months. I lost $8000. And that doesn’t include the loss of mortgage, insurance, and taxes paid for those months.

The next day I scrub that mold to oblivion and paint that trim like a classical painter. That same week the property was leased. Problem solved. I blamed myself for allowing Sponge to consume my life. It cost me a lot of money. But that still doesn’t answer the question. Why don’t I feel that bad about losing that money?

I never had it. I never touched it. It was never in my account. It was phantom money. Money that I very likely could have had had I done the right thing from the start. But since I didn’t it never came. My investor friend has a place in Florida that he rents out for $1500 and he decided not to lease it out to anybody for 5 months because he wanted to stay in it on his trip there for 7 days. He lost $7500. He could have stayed in a hotel instead and used the difference to spend on his vacation. He knew what he was doing. He knew he was losing money because we talked about it. But he was OK with it. He never had it. He never touched it. It was never in his account. It was phantom money.

That being said. If that money was in my shoe box and then by mistake placed in the recycling bin, and the recycling bin had been picked up, I would be cursing like when you are barefoot and step on a Lego in the middle of night. Then I would probably curl up in the fetal position at night wondering and whispering to myself over and over again…. where is it? Why? Why? And the mental anguish of losing it would bother me for days…until time would eventually heal the pain. Yes, I lost $8000. Will I do a better job to prevent such a loss in the future? You bet. Do I feel bad about it?…Now that I think about it…a little bit more now….

Laborer vs Teacher?: Who gets home more tired at the end of the day?

During the remodel of the property just purchased, as I was throwing debris onto the back of my van, I reflected on how much physical work I put into the remodel. Especially this pass week where I put in 10 hours daily of hard labor from demolition, to painting, to electrical work, to loading and unloading material, plus more…During the first days my body got sore but by the end of the week my body became accustomed to the work. And this was not the first time in my life I have done hard labor for a long period of time. There was one summer I spent as a landscape helper and another as an HVAC installer.

In landscaping I remember the long hours in 100 degree plus weather mowing lawns, pulling weeds, cutting branches under the hot sun. In HVAC you were not under the sun but in 110-120 degree attics among insulation and tight places. Both were intense jobs and when I would get home my body would be tired but my brain would still be alive to focus on other tasks in my life.

My stint as a full time middle school teacher lasted 6 years. I was 22 years old and full of false bravado that got me nowhere in my new occupation. By the end of the month I was sitting on the toilet with my hands clasped against my face…crying. It was too much, disrespectful students, dismissive administration, meetings, supervising duties. I remember getting home depressed and exhausted. The exhaustion was so severe at times that I could not stay awake on my 20 minute drive home. The following year I improved as a teacher, especially with discipline and organization. My students became very well behaved but it was a catch-22 because I had to work very hard to maintain that discipline and organization, which tired me out just the same. Although I blossomed into a way better teacher, it did not solve the problem of me getting home tired. I left teaching after 6 years and worked in the non-profit industry, at a bank, as a realtor, also did stints of construction work, yet no other work was a able to duplicate the deep exhaustion caused by teaching.

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One of the reasons I got into teaching was for the vacation days, shorter work days, and holidays where I didn’t have to work. Then I found myself working during those times that I naively believed I would have time to relax. My brain would always be thinking about my job…it never stopped. I would try not to think about my job while at home and only found that it made me a bad teacher…good teachers have to think about their jobs constantly to solve problems meaning that exhaustion is a requirement for being a “good teacher.”

Last year, my wife saw some guy doing custodial/janitor work and commented “poor guy, he must get home exhausted.” I laughed and told her to not feel sorry for that guy,”your a teacher, remember.” She acknowledged the truth of the statement. A few months later she left her job when the school year ended.

To sum up…who gets more tired at the end of the day…laborer or teacher? I vote teacher. How about you?

Alternate Address For All

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When I was a newbie investor in real estate I used to have tenants mail me the rent checks to my home address. Since the majority of my properties where in middle to upper middle class neighborhoods at the time I felt the tenants would respect my privacy. Most did, a few didn’t.

Scenario # 1:

I woke up that Sunday morning like any other. I ate breakfast and then decided to sit down with my wife to decide how we were going to spend our day when the door bell rang. It was about 9 am and I was interested to see what sales pitch I was going to hear from this early door to door salesperson. Looking through the peep hole I saw one of my tenants. Whoa! I was surprised! I opened the door and he explained that he was in the neighborhood and decided to stop by to drop off the check personally. Funny, I lived about an hour away from the rental. I don’t mind the rent being paid but to drive to my house to drop it off on a Sunday morning without notice, I felt it was a bit of an intrusion.

Scenario #2:

A tenant decided to break the lease and we agreed in writing that they will give up their entire deposit as damages for breaking the lease. All parties signed the document stating such. After one week on the market the house leased out and I get a call from the former tenants explaining that because it leased out so fast I did not lose any money and I should return their full deposit back to them. Apparently, to know that information they had to have been driving by the rental after they moved out to check for activity. I paused to evaluate what was spoken and stayed silent on the phone. After a few seconds I heard an “uuuughhhh” and they suddenly hung up on me. I continued with my day, running errands, when I get a call from my wife. The conversation goes like this:

Me: Hey..whats up?

Wife: There is a lady and man on our front doorstep asking to speak with you.

Me: Who?

Wife: I think its one of your tenants. They look stern and are talking about some type of deposit.

Me: Tell them that I will get there soon but shut the door and keep everything locked until I get there.

I get home and they were gone. I never heard from them again. But I felt intruded again.

Solution

Shortly after that last incident I got a paid alternate address, and I direct all my tenants to the new address and I moved to another home. I moved because too many tenants from the past knew where I lived. I also placed an alternate address at the County Tax Records for all the properties. Did it help? I think it did. I have not had one tenant knock on my door since then. It has been ten years and my privacy has been intact…..so far at least. But now with super search engines and this blog……who knows?

Dear Deer; Don’t Die Doe

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I have avoided deer all my life. They have made me swerve on the highway, drive extra slow on residential streets, and avoided a street altogether when walking my dog. Yesterday on Halloween I discovered a dead deer on the recently purchased property. It appeared to have died of internal injuries. What are the chances?

I almost became a little paranoid. Somebody must have dumped it here. One of the neighbors? Teenage jerks? My mother-in-law? Clowns?…Anything was possible? I inspected to see if there was a trail of blood or folded blades of grass, evidence of dragging. I found none.

The more likely scenario is that the deer just fell dead in the flower bed in the front lawn from a collision with a car or a metal fence. Oh dear! Poor deer! I call the city for a pick up but the city denies my request because the property is a few blocks beyond the city boundary. I call the county and they tell me they can only pick up if it is on the street and creating a road hazard. I’m screwed for deer life.

Should I pack it up myself in a black plastic sheet and haul it to the dump? The neighbors would think I am a mass murderer! It would look very suspicious that’s for sure. As I am writing this, the deer is still lying dead in the front lawn, bloated and smelly. I need to call an animal removing company because a mortuary definitely won’t pick it up. There are many doe’s and don’ts  when it comes to wild animal removal. I need to do the right thing.

UPDATE

Well….the day I wrote the above article towards the evening I checked on that deer. Only the head and neck was left! The vultures have eaten most of it. I cancelled the animal removal company and decided to wait the next day. The next evening I see this:

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I got out a black plastic bag, placed the remainder there, and put it in the trash. Problem solved! Thank you nature.

Being Stood Up

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She Was A Beautiful Girl

She was beautiful, with long silky hair, clear skin, pretty eyes, full lips, flowing body, she was the girl of most guys dreams. It was a second date and we had a time set up that Saturday to meet at a restaurant. I was slightly nervous and very much looked forward to seeing her again at 8 pm. Being a little early to every appointment was my norm and I was eagerly early on that day, getting there five minutes before. I asked for a table and ordered a beer, waiting for all the clocks in the restaurant to reach the magical number 8. At exactly 8 pm I saw her coming in the restaurant. Oh…wait….that wasn’t her…sure looked like her though... Maybe she is a little late. I give her time and waited half an hour but still nothing. I text her: Are you on your way? Let me know if you have trouble finding the place. Ten more long minutes passed. Time slowed down. Everybody was moving around like snails. I call. No answer. I leave a voice message: Hey, its me. I am here at the restaurant. Let me know if you are on your way. See you here. I waited another twenty minutes for any type of response….a text, a call, message from the waiter, telegram, morse code, anything. I got nothing. I went home with mixed feelings of rejection and disappointment. So sad.

 

The Ugly Contractor

He was ugly. With no hair on his head, skin of an alligator, blood shot eyes from working under drywall for years, missing teeth, and a burly, hairy body that most women would say EEEEEEEW! Yes…with that many E’s behind the W. He had done a few small jobs for me in the past and this would have been like the fourth one. We had set up the appointment for Wednesday at 8 am at the property. I get there a few minutes early of course. You know me. I go inside the house, pacing back and forth looking around, rehearsing what needs to be done for the remodel in my head, waiting for that dreadful 8. It got there faster than I thought it would. At 8 am I flipped the blind and saw a truck coming down the road. It’s him. I go outside to greet him with a smile on face. When I got to the middle of the front yard I waved him down only to see a guy that wasn’t him wave back at me and he kept on going. It wasn’t him. I got nervous. This time around I wait twenty-five minutes before texting him. I text him: Hey Bud, I am here waiting. Let me know if you have trouble finding the place. I wait 10 minutes and no response. Damn it. Could it be happening again? This time by my ugly contractor. I call him and leave a message: Hey man, just checking in to see if you are showing up. I sit in my car staring off into empty space like a zombie, dumbfounded. This guy is not showing up. After ten minutes, I turn on the ignition, close the door, put on my seat belt, put it on reverse and I am ouuuuuuutta’ here!!!!!!! Yes, with that many u’s and exclamation points. Driving back home, I did not want to hear from that guy…..no text, no messages, and definitely not telegrams or morse code.

The Contractor Dilemma

When the real estate market is hot contractors have little time for you and you are calling them to show up. When the market is icy cold contractors have a lot more time and they are calling you for jobs or if you call–they actually show up. It is the nature of the beast we call the real estate market. It is a little different in the love market. Did I ever speak to that girl that stood me up again? Yes I did. She called me the next evening apologizing explaining why she didn’t make it. I asked her why she didn’t just let me know she wasn’t able to make it instead of letting me sit there in that restaurant playing around with my drink waiting for her. More excuses. I never called her again after that. Good for me because I found my wife a few years later. As for the contractor, it has been two weeks and I haven’t heard from him and I probably never will again. Will I ever find “The One”….that one contractor that will stick around for the rest of my life? Probably not and I am good with that.

Bought a Bargain Property: Now What?

We have recently purchased a property at a very good price at $330,000. There are three choices we could make and they are driving us a little crazy. My wife and I have been talking about the choices and we have decided to put the decision off for a few weeks. But we will have to decide within the next few months and again the indecision on our part is driving us nuts. Tough choice to make.

The Situation

The deal was found out of sheer curiosity. The market in my neighborhood is hot and most homes sell within 30 days. I noticed that there was one home that had passed 100 days on the market. I wanted to know why and quickly set up an appointment to go see it. The home was fundamentally sound but everything was out of date. It had original worn cabinets, stained concrete flooring that was not conventionally appealing, and the areas with carpet was worn and stained. They priced it well for the condition at a reasonable $425,000. Why didn’t it sell at that price I have no idea but buyers did not want to touch it. I did but at a lower price. The roof, HVAC, and water heater were less than 5 years old. The foundation was sound.  When I negotiated it down to $330,000 it became a treasure. It was pure luck my offer got accepted. Now we have some choices to make.

The Choices

Choice A is to flip the property. Remodeled comparables in the same neighborhood are selling for about $500,000-$550,000. I can budget holding costs and a remodeling budget of $70,000 bringing my total cost to $400,000. If it sells at its market value after the remodel the profit margin would be between $80,000-$130,000 after all expenses!!! It is definitely tempting to just flip it and make a quick profit.

Choice B is to keep it as a rental. Since it was already bought at a bargain price we would have instant equity now and into the future adding to my net worth. The property can lease out for a range of $2700-$3000 once the remodel is finished. However, by keeping it I will have to swallow all the repair costs..that means I will have to be paying off the line of credit I am using for repairs in the foreseeable future. The rent will cover that costs along with the mortgage but I will not be getting that much passive income.

Choice C is to move in to the property and lease out our current home. The house feeds to the same schools my kids go to, has a floor plan that works for us, and is similar in square footage to our current house. If I flip it right away the profits will be taxed as ordinary income. However if we live in it for 2 years the profit becomes tax free.  The government allows homeowners to keep up to $250,000 in gains for individuals and $500,000 for married couples if they live in a house at least 2 years. By being patient we can flip it in 2 years and not pay taxes on the gain. If we like it enough we can just stay there. But again, similar to keeping it as rental, we would have to continue to pay the $70,000 loan for repair costs until we can re coop it back if we sell in 2 years or for a longer period of time if we decide to stay longer.

All three choices have positives and negatives. The ones that make more sense to me at this point is choice A and choice C more so than choice B. My wife and I will be discussing some more in the upcoming days. What a predicament?  What would you do?

Abandoned Vehicle on Fourplex

A few days ago I was at home in the late evening laying on my bed… reading the news of the day on my phone like most adults out there in the world do at that time.  All of a sudden the phone rang and it was one of my tenants letting me know that there was a car in the small parking lot ON THE PROPERTY that has been there for several days and they had no idea who it belonged to. What do I do in this situation? Do I call the cops or towing company?

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The next morning I drove out to the property. A few blocks from my destination I saw a police officer on the side of the road. My decision whether to call the police or the tow company was decided for me by fate. I waved at the officer and he came out of his vehicle. Once we were within talking range, the situation concerning the abandoned vehicle was explained and he ended up following me to the property.

Once there he ran a check on the vehicle. The vehicle came out clean. It was not involved in any robbery, murder, rape, and it was not a stolen vehicle. I knew then he wasn’t going to remove the vehicle. He explained since the vehicle check came out clean he really couldn’t do anything to help. Then I realized my biggest mistake of all. I should have been carrying donuts. A juicy glaze donut given to the officer for sure would have been enough of a bribe to have the vehicle towed out. He left and abandoned me like the vehicle I am trying to get rid of and Plan B came into effect. I called the tow company immediately. I told them I wanted the vehicle towed right now and they explained to me they couldn’t for the three reasons below:

Reason 1: I need to have a sign post that is 5 feet tall with a standard towing sign.

Reason 2: I also need to have a barrier like concrete stoppers, gate, or something similar separating my parking lot from the fourplex next door. (Texas Regulation per Towing Guy Conversation)

Reason 3: I needed to first do reasons 1 and 2 then wait 24 hours.

Quite a bit of work. But once I do all three they will tow whatever vehicle violates the new towing ordinance for FREE. Now going through all three steps could take up to a week or I could start knocking on doors at the fourplexes nearby to see who has any information about this vehicle. I started knocking on doors.

I knocked on a unit next door and there was no answer. On the next one somebody answered. I asked about the car and luck was on my side when she said the car was her brother’s. Apparently, the car just needed a battery and he had left it there until he bought a new one. Why he left it there on my property was not revealed and I didn’t ask. I just asked for it to be moved–that was the goal at the moment. She called his brother and he came with a new battery within the hour and problem solved! I didn’t have to tow and her brother didn’t have to pay $300 to a towing company to get it back. Taking a little time knocking on stranger’s doors paid off. And by the sound of the car…I think the brother bought a lemon…oh well.